Is “Fat Talk” Toxic?

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Aug 23, 2012

Mind-Body-Spirit News

In an effort to motivate participants to train harder during workouts, some fitness leaders comment on their own feelings of being “fat.” New research suggests that referring to your own fatness may actually do harm to your body image and self-esteem over time. Lead study author Analisa Arroyo, a PhD student in communication at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said, “We found that fat talk predicts changes in depression, body satisfaction, and perceived pressure to be thin across time.” Researchers from this university conducted two studies involving 168 male and female undergraduate university students. The students answered questionnaires on topics of body image, pressure to be thin, depression levels, self-esteem and fat talk. Commenting on the study results, Arroyo noted, “It is the act of engaging in fat talk, rather than passively being exposed to it (through the media), that has . . . negative effects.” The research did not address the impact of personal fat talk on those listening to the speaker, but fitness professionals should also consider the potential influence of this kind of conversation on the body image and self-esteem of clients. The study is available in the May 2012 Journal of Applied Communication Research (2012; 40 [2], 167–87).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at